The Killer Queen show will rock you when the tribute band comes to Ipswich in August. For John Blunt, he has made a career out of portraying rock icon Freddie Mercury.
WHAT can you say about Queen front man Freddie Mercury that hasn’t already been said?
Performer. Star. Icon. Legend. So many things come to mind when you consider his legacy in rock music as the lead singer of one of the biggest bands of all time. The band’s popularity continues to this day, despite Mercury’s passing in 1991, and with the bio pic Bohemian Rhapsody in cinemas on Boxing Day, our hunger for all things Queen continues.
As lead singer of the tribute act Killer Queen, John Blunt has turned being a fan into something that loves to do every week, and that’s literally “being Freddie”. John is bringing his show to the Ipswich Civic Centre on August 11 and the response from Ipswich music fans has been huge.
"I think there are only a handful of tickets left already," John said from his home in Ferny Grove. "The show is two months away and the response from Ipswich has been wonderful."
John is 48 now and was a teenager when Queen were at their peak in 1985.
"They were always popular but after Live AID, those Wembley shows…Queen were at their peak then, and like most people I was brought up on my father’s music. "He liked Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis and The Beatles, acts that all influenced Freddie Mercury. I was turning 17 from memory and a friend played me Queen’s Greatest Hits Volume 1 and I was hooked. That was it. I was truly fascinated, I couldn’t get enough of Queen. Many might argue I got into them late, but it was still and exciting time.
"I think I liked Queen because their music was so diverse, there’s heavy metal, there’s love songs, there’s ballads, even a bit of opera."
John was working at Warner Brothers Movie World on the Gold Coast in the late 1990s and management was looking at putting together a ‘Legends Show’. It gave John a chance to bring his love of Queen to the stage. "I pitched the idea of being Freddie Mercury to management, and that’s where it all started. I left Movie World and thought what do I do now, and my goal was to really experiment with this concept a bit further.
"I was doing a show as Elvis Presley and Freddie, and I called it the King And Queen Show, but eventually I dropped the Elvis part as I realised there was so much competition out there, besides my heart was always with Queen anyway. So, it then became the Killer Queen show, and it’s been fifteen years now, although I think the last four years we’ve really hit our straps." Australia is known around the world for producing great tribute acts, with bands like Bjorn Again proving that you can take a good idea all over the world. "Tribute bands provide nostalgia for people, especially if that band isn’t touring anymore," John said. "People often give them a bit of a hard time, as some get it wrong, but many do get it so right. The legends and Gods of rock are slowly leaving us, and we are going to be looking to these shows to fill that void, and the better bands do that.
"People know I’m not Freddie, I know I’m not Freddie, but I want people to walk about feeling like they’ve experienced something."
John’s resemblance to Freddie is uncanny, and it let to him scoring the biggest role of his life, when he was picked to play the star in a documentary in London called ‘Who Wants to Life Forever?’
"I got an email from the producers and they said they were doing this show, where they’d be talking to friends, bodyguards and tour managers who knew Freddie, telling stories, and my job would be to re-enact them. "It became very real when I had to do a skype interview with the producers, doing improv, running through some lines and they said they were looking all over the world and I had been recommended to them," John said. "That was surreal for me.
"I got the part, and next thing I’m on a plane to London. I still pinch myself over it. It hasn’t screened on TV here yet but I’m hoping it will soon."
John has a theory as to what made Freddie Mercury the star he became, and when you think about it, he’s spot on.
"The thing that Freddie had was this unbelievable, relaxed confidence," John said. "When he was on stage you felt like he was at home entertaining friends in his living room. I have never seen any other performer that relaxed and commanding.
"He wanted them to clap, they clapped. He wanted them to sing, they sang. This is 90,000 people, and he’s in full command. When he walked on stage at Wembley with the crown and cape on, he really was rock royalty."
The Killer Queen Experience is at the Ipswich Civic Centre on August 11th before heading to Toowoomba.
Right: Killer Queen frontman John Blunt channels his hero Freddie Mercury.
The resemblence is often uncanny, as this photo shows of John as the Queen lead singer. John Blunt as Freddie Mercury John Blunt in a still from Who Wants To Life Forever?